Scouting Notes on the Mysterious Moncada Butterfly

It’s weird. Chris Sale was traded today – a guy who has been worth almost 28 WAR over the course of his career – and yet I like the return the Chicago White Sox got a lot more. I think the White Sox acquired a Robinson Cano 2.0 with the bat in Yoan Moncada, a guy who is as Fangraphs notes is ‘built like an SEC linebacker’, and this version of Cano has incredible speed to go with the pop.

We barely know Moncada yet as a player. If you blinked, you missed his time as a Red Sox player; which will end up as less than a footnote in his baseball history (eight games, 20 at-bats).

Here are some scouting quotes from the article on Moncada, who I think some are underestimating offensively even when they’re calling him a 20 home run bat. We have no way to know how his bat will develop in a bandbox like US Cellular Field.

He’s also a plus-plus runner, both from home to first and on the bases, scattering large swaths of dirt behind him as he traverses the bases. I think Moncada is going to retain that speed for quite a while despite already appearing to have maxed out physically. Even if he does lose a step with age (and it will probably happen at some point), I expect Moncada to retain impact plus speed into his late 20s or early 30s, even if he’s no longer an elite runner at peak.

That speed is going to give Chicago some room to consider Moncada’s defensive options. His performance at second base was mixed throughout his tenure with Boston. He certainly has the physical capability to play the position easily. His range and arm strength (an easy 70 on the scouting scale) are both more than enough to play anywhere on the infield, but his work around the bag, general defensive footwork, and sometimes awkward arm action have all led to some inexcusable miscues that most scouts hope will be ironed out with time and reps.

You almost forget until you hear them say it on the networks – that Moncada is the #1 prospect in all of baseball right now. The reason for that always goes back to his power upside potential and his hit tool. Here are some notes on that:

Regardless of where Moncada ends up on the defensive spectrum, his offensive capabilities are going to profile there. He generates plus-plus bat speed from the left side and is able to hit for opposite-field power despite a swing geared for low-ball contact, something I don’t recall seeing from a prospect before. His bat control is mediocre right now, and I think this is part of why he has struck out so much (30% of the time at Triple-A, 60% in a short big-league stint) during his career. Moncada’s swing from the right side is more conservative, a bit more stiff than his cut from the left side, and lacks big extension. He’s more strength than bat speed as a right-handed hitter but still has plus raw power from that side.

Even with a worse-than-average strikeout rate factored into his hit tool’s grade, I think Moncada is a future plus hitter because, when he does connect, he’s vaporizing baseballs into play and his career-long BABIP and ISO are evidence of that. I think it’s reasonable to say Moncada’s career BABIP rate will rest, at the very least, comfortably above the league-average .300 mark when you factor in his speed and the quality of contact he makes when he does connect.

The author of the post, Mr. Longenhagen, notes that in time Moncada will be one of baseball’s elite players when things like his power fully develop. He would know, as he’s scouted him before.

In closing, here’s his chart from that post: